'WE can now see a little bit of light in the distance with the First Minister having confirmed this week that some of Scotland’s lockdown restrictions have been eased and we have moved into Phase One of the journey towards something approaching normal life as we knew it before we had heard of coronavirus.

But if we are to make sure that it is indeed the end of the tunnel we can see, then we will all have to ensure that we continue to follow the guidance that is being issued or there is a very real danger that light will turn out to be oncoming train of a second spike in the graph of coronavirus infection.

It is because of the sacrifices that we have all made in abiding by the rules during the lockdown phase that we have seen the numbers of hospital admissions and deaths fall for several weeks in a row and we must be extremely vigilant to ensure that downward trend continues. While some outdoor activity restrictions have eased, the public are still being urged to stay at home as much as possible and maintain strict physical distancing when outdoors.

The new guidelines allow for people from two different households to meet in outdoor spaces in groups up to a suggested maximum of eight people. But please, remember that physical distancing and hygiene rules still have to be maintained.

People who are shielding will be well into their third month of isolation, of not being able to leave the house at all. I know that their isolation will be even harder as they see others gaining new freedoms, If you are shielding, I want you to know that you are uppermost in my thoughts in these difficult times and more information will be coming out regarding your situation in the coming weeks.

The core advice remains to stay home as much as possible – the virus has not gone away and by protecting ourselves, we protect others. If you have symptoms, get tested; wash your hands and surfaces regularly; and if you do meet family or a friend stay outdoors. Don’t put them or yourself at risk. As ever, there is a lot more information on the www.nhsinform.scot website.

That question of testing is now very important. As part of this next phase we have seen the launch of Test and Protect - Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate, support' strategy - is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community.

It will help us to gradually change the restrictions that help to suppress the virus, and instead to contain it, so that society and the economy can avoid a return to lockdown and adapt to a new normal.

The more we all stick to the guidelines, the quicker we will be able to move on to the next phase of lifting restrictions'.